Photo: UNEP
20 Sep 2022 Speech Nature Action

For the UN Biodiversity Conference, it’s one minute to midnight

Photo: UNEP
Speech delivered by: Inger Andersen
Event: Countdown to United Nations Biodiversity Conference: Landmark Leaders Event for a Nature Positive World
Location: New York

When it comes to safeguarding the natural world, we have heard many commitments. But commitments are easy. It is turning them into action that is hard.

It is one minute to midnight for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference and the framework we are developing to protect the planet’s dwindling biodiversity. We must agree on the framework’s text and ensure that commitments at every level become a reality. Yes indeed, we all want to live in harmony with nature. But to make it actually happen, we need more.

We need Heads of State who make the commitments to instruct their ministers to instruct their negotiators on what's needed. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services told us a few years ago, that there are five drivers of biodiversity loss. Fragmentation and land-use changes are driving around 80 per cent of biodiversity loss in many jurisdictions, including in the developing world. That means agriculture. That means infrastructure. That means urban expansion and sprawl. So we need to have a conversation about this.

We know a second driver is overexploitation, like overfishing and tree felling. We need these resources, obviously. But are we willing to have that conversation with aquaculture, with agriculture and with forestry? Because that is what we need to do.

The third driver is pollution. We use nutrients in agriculture, and that is well understood. But by using nutrients and fertilizers, we are creating dead zones in the oceans, and we are killing our waterways. That's a conversation we need to have.

We understand that climate change is real and is forcing disabling shifts in nature. So that's another conversation that we must have.

The last driver is invasive species. It is actually a bigger driver of loss than some of the others I have mentioned, but less understood. It is something that we also need to deal with.

We need to unpack these five drivers in the framework. We salute the call for the 30 by 30 goal, which calls for the protection of 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030. But that's one out of 21 things that we need to get right in this framework. Others include overexploitation, pollution,  fragmentation and unsustainable agricultural practices.

So, when we say the words “nature-based solutions, no net loss, living in harmony with nature” — these are good words. When we say the words “whole-of-society solution”, these are good words. But they must be translated into the agriculture sector, into the infrastructure sector, into the kind of policies and key levers that we must deploy.

This is not the first global framework aimed at ending biodiversity. This is indeed the third one, and so we want to get this right. We want targets that we can measure. We want to move beyond generic targets of living in harmony with nature and a vague proclamation of where we would like to be 10 years from now. We want this to make sense. We want this to add up to no net loss. That's what this conversation is about.

So, I salute all of those who have made the commitments tonight. What we will need to do is to actually hold each other and ourselves to account, because that's what will matter. Thank you.